It’s been more than forty years since Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment declaring that members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim minority religious community are not Muslims. And attacks against Ahmadis by those who consider them heretics continue.
On December 12 thousands of Sunni Muslims marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad in Punjab’s Chakwal city attacked a mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. According to reports, stones and bricks were thrown and weapons fired at the mosque as it was stormed. Several people were wounded, and one person died of a heart attack during the attack. Security forces were said to have been brought in to calm the situation.
In another incident on December 5, police from Punjab’s Counterterrorism Department raided the community’s headquarters in Rabwa, and arrested several Ahmadis who were believed to be involved in publishing religious literature. They were later charged under provisions in Pakistan’s penal code and Anti-Terrorism Act.
In its most recent international religious freedom report on Pakistan, the U.S. State Department noted the concern by leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community over the government’s continued targeting of Ahmadis for blasphemy, and over legislation which deny them basic rights. Members of religious minority communities stated that the Pakistani government was inconsistent in safeguarding minority rights, and official discrimination against religious minorities persisted.
The report noted that U.S. officials have met with Pakistani officials repeatedly to discuss the treatment of all minority religious groups in Pakistan, including Ahmadiyya Muslims, as well as to encourage interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance.
At a recent press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said the United States was “very concerned” over reports about the raid by police on the Ahmadiyya Muslim headquarters.
“We have regularly noted our concerns about Pakistani laws that restrict peaceful religious expression, particularly by the Ahmadiyya community in our international religious freedom report,” Mr. Toner said. “We believe such laws are inconsistent with Pakistan’s international obligations and we would urge the Government of Pakistan to protect religious freedom and basic rights of all members of its population, including religious minorities.”